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Internet-free Twitter heading to international cell phone markets

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Interested in Twitter but don't have a cell phone that connects to the Internet? That's ok, because a version of the social media service that does not require a web connection will soon be available to international users.

According to Reuters on Thursday, Twitter is teaming up with U2opia Mobile, a Singapore-based company, to bring the non-Internet version to international markets and "entry-level" mobile phones. To access the service, customers will need to dial a code before being able to see a feed of tweets.

There's a bit of a catch, though: pictures and videos will not be visible due to the lack of Internet connection, so users will only be able to see text. The service only gives access to Twitter's topics trending in each user's particular area as well.

U2opia Chief Executive and Co-founder Sumesh Menon told Reuters that the service will use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to provide access to Twitter and even though users will not be able to see photos, the very nature of Twitter lends itself to such a method.

"USSD as a vehicle for Twitter is almost hand in glove because Twitter has by design a character limit, it's a very text-driven social network," Menon said.

The company is present in 30 countries at the moment and has large markets in Africa and South America, plus presence in "emerging markets" that will introduce some cell phone users to Twitter for the first time. U2opia has a similar partnership with Facebook and Google Talk to bring those services to users without an Internet connection.

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